he Chinese government banned the Falun Gong cult because the Chinese people demanded action against it, a spokesman of the Information Office of the State Council said.
The ban has been carried out according to law, and people from all walks of life support it, the official emphasized.
Before the ban, Chinese across the country had expressed their deep concern over the cult's harmful affect on families, the health of the Falun Gong practitioners themselves, China's social stability as well as its illegal profits made by the ringleaders headed by Li Zhongzhi, the official said.
Chinese called on the government to contain the spread of Falun Gong's influence. Meanwhile, relatives of Falun Gong victims, journalists, and scientists have written stories carried in newspapers across the country that shed light on the unlawful activities of the cult, the official said.
On June 17, Guangming Daily, one of the leading newspapers in China, published a signed article that said the book "Zhuan Falun, " written by the cult leader, Li Hongzhi, is based on pseudo-science and promotes feudalism and superstition.
In April 1998, Qilu Evening News, based in Jinan, provincial capital of Shandong Province, carried two critical reports focused on some Falun Gong practitioners who died of illness after they refused medical treatment. A month later, Beijing Television aired a segment about a doctoral candidate who became paralyzed when he was practicing Falun Gong.
In April 1999, He Zuoxiu, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, contributed an essay to a journal published by the Education College of the Tianjin Normal University that criticized the cult.
Since 1998, a dozen local media organizations have released stories and articles exposing the true nature of Falun Gong. In retaliation, Li Hongzhi organized his followers to protest outside these television stations and newspaper offices.
The government's ban and crackdowns on the Falun Gong Cult have legal basis and are meant to safeguard social stability and protect people's life and property - which is the government's main responsibility, he stressed.
A cult is a social cancer, he said. The government of any country that has experienced a cult should adopt a watchful and preventive attitude, and handle such groups with a firm hand, he noted.
China has always adhered to the policy of resolutely cracking down on cults and the criminal activities of their members, according to the official.
On March 14, 1997, the National People's Congress (NPC), China' s top legislature, revised the Criminal Law at its fifth meeting which provided punishments against cult-related criminal activities in Clause 300.
On July 22, 1999, the Ministry of Civil Affairs outlawed Falun Gong according to the Provisions on the Registration and Administration on Social Groups, after finding that the so-called Falun Dafa Society and its Falun Gong organizations had never registered with the ministry and were engaged in illegal activities.
On the same day, the Ministry of Public Security issued a circular to prohibit publicity of Falun Dafa in any form as well as any activities disturbing social order or opposing the government.
In October 1999, the NPC Standing Committee passed a resolution to ban cults and prevent and punish cult activities. In an explanation of the draft resolution, Hou Zongbin, chairman of the Ninth NPC Committee for Internal and Judicial Affairs, said that cults had been spreading in some parts of the country, creating some alarming situations.
The range of society that has been affected by Falun Gong, the number of people involved, and the amount of illegal publications that have been distributed make Falun Gong the most dangerous cult encountered by the People's Republic of China since its founding in 1949, Hou said.
On October 30, the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate published "Explanations on the Application of Law Concerning Crimes Involved in the Organization and Utilization of Cults."
On December 26, 1999, the Intermediate People's Court of Beijing sentenced, in the first instance, core Falun Gong leaders Li Chang, Wang Zhiwen, Ji Liewu and Yao Jie in conviction of obstructing law enforcement and causing deaths through cult activities.
The court confirmed the Falun Dafa society and local Falun Gong training centers were associated with the cult. And the four received prison sentences ranging from seven to 18 years accordingly.
Since then, local courts across the country have sentenced a number of Falun Gong members according to China's Criminal Law, the official said, stressing repeatedly that the government's actions have been based on law.
The spokesman reiterated the government's policy on dealing with the members of Falun Gong. The majority of Falun Gong practitioners were deceived by the cult and they should be educated to free themselves from the group's spiritual shackles.
Considering the size and scope of the cult, only a handful of Falun Gong members have been severely punished according to law, he noted. So far, 242 backbone Falun Gong members have been given criminal punishments throughout the country, official statistics showed.
The judicial departments have punished Falun Gong criminals not for their practice of Falun Gong but for their violation of Chinese law, the official said.
Moreover, he said, the judicial departments have followed the principle of basing their sentencing decisions on facts and law.
To deal with the Falun Gong issue according to law complies with the State's principle of rule of law, as it aims to protect the rights and interests of the people, maintain stable social development, and preserve the legal authority, he stressed.
A number of hard-core Falun Gong elements have recently aired their beliefs publicly in some highly visible places, including Tian'anmen Square, in an attempt to influence non-believers.
In response, the municipal government of Beijing has adopted stronger measures, such as increased police patrols, to protect Tian'anmen Square and other places where illegal gatherings have been held. This is meant to guarantee the timely detainment and removal of those Falun Gong members who are engaged in illegal acts, the official said.
Cult members who resorted to violence were led away forcefully so that normal social order could be restored as quickly as possible, according to the official.
According to the Law on Gatherings, Parades and Demonstrations, activities such as those public demonstrations staged by Falun Gong members must have prior approval from the public security department. The municipal government of Beijing has also issued rules against illegal gatherings, parades and demonstrations as well as any kind of illegal publicity material being posted in public.
Falun Gong activists' gatherings on the Tian'anmen Square, held in the name of "protecting or spreading the Fa," are illegal, the official said.
Based on the People's Police Law, police have the right to question Falun Gong members who are holding non-approved and illegal gatherings on Tian'anmen Square; police have the right to order them to disperse and can forcibly break up the gatherings should the participants refuse to cooperate; and they have the right to immediately detain those who have disobeyed the order, according to the official.
Cult members from elsewhere in the country who have traveled to Beijing to participate in illegal gatherings will be detained or forcibly sent back to their homes by the police. Those who have seriously disturbed social order will be punished or sent to labor camps for reeducation according to law, but those who have violated the Criminal Law and committed crimes will be held responsible in a court of law.
The transformation-through-labor system was launched on August 1, 1957, when the NPC Standing Committee approved a resolution of the State Council on the issue. On November 29, 1979, the NPC Standing Committee approved some additional related rules issued by the State Council. In January 1982, the State Council promulgated a provisional regulation on the transformation through labor.
According to law, those who have disturbed social order, refused to break their ties with the cult, or committed minor cult-related crimes will be sent to labor camps for transformation. Such cases would need to be approved by the transformation-through-labor administrative commissions under provincial or municipal level governments.
The official noted that to this day, none of those who have been sent to transformation-through-labor houses are put into these places solely because they practice Falun Gong but because their participation in demonstrations has disturbed social order.
The legal rights of those who are being transformed through labor are protected by Chinese law, including their personal rights, property rights and rights to sue and appeal and communicate, according to the official. Measures are taken to ensure the protection of these rights, he added.
The transformation-through-labor institutions follow the policy of educating their inmates and protecting their legal rights, and measures taken to preserve these rights include reduction of sentences, home-based transformation, and early release from the institutions, according to the official.
The spokesman denied reports on Falun Gong websites that a female practitioner was beaten to death on Tian'anmen Square on the morning of January 1, 2001.
"I could responsibly say that this is a rumor fabricated by Falun Gong groups. Nobody has died on the square since April 25, 1999," he said.